Thursday, July 02, 2009

Lawmakers were "flooded with constituent e-mail opposed to the CDAs."

Legislature hoping to wrap up special session


Associated Press Writer
Copyright 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Two of the issues assigned to the Legislature by Gov. Rick Perry were on the fast track to becoming law Thursday while the third, a measure that would allow the state to continue contracting for privately built toll roads, appeared dead.

"Two out of three ain't bad," said Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, as lawmakers speculated that the special session that convened Wednesday would be adjourned by the end of the day Thursday.

The House and Senate have finished their work on a bill to keep five important state agencies operating for the next two years. After tying up some technical loose ends, the bill next heads to Perry for his signature.

The unanimously approved bill will save the Texas Department of Transportation, the Department of Insurance and three other agencies from abolition. That's because state law requires the Legislature to regularly review and reauthorize state agencies, but lawmakers failed to renew them during the regular session that ended June 1 because of partisan bickering.

Perry called the special session to deal with that and two other transportation bills. State leaders have remained committed to finishing before the holiday weekend, even though special sessions can last up to 30 days.

The House also passed a bill Thursday that authorizes the state to spend $2 billion in bonds to build new roads. The road bonds were already approved by voters statewide in 2007, but the Legislature still needed to authorize the spending.

House lawmakers added a provision that would prohibit the money from being used to turn existing free roadways into tollways. That bill was expected to get approval in the Senate later Thursday.

The measure that would allow the state to continue contracting for privately built toll roads was on the chopping block.

Contracts known as Comprehensive Development Agreements have been used to finance, build and operate toll roads and other projects. But opponents of such contracts worry they take control away from local governments.

Perry and his staff met with lawmakers in an attempt to revive the bill, but with no luck, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said.

Rep. Phil King, a Weatherford Republican, said he and others have been flooded with constituent e-mail opposed to the CDAs.

Sen. John Carona, chairman of Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, says CDAs can be looked at again in 2011.

"No major project is going to be left behind between now and 2011," he said.

Associated Press Writer Jim Vertuno contributed to this report.

The bills are HB 1, SB 2 and SB 3.

© 2009 Th Associated Press:

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